Lest(er) I Forget…

While The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film did not seem to me to be a direct visual antecedent to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, I have found direct evidence to the contrary: Terry Gilliam cites the film as inspiration for his animation storytelling methodology in FilmCraft: Directing (2012).  And on Spike Milligan’s death on 27 February 2002, he reiterated his debt to Milligan’s aesthetic.  In that second link are other tributes to Milligan by Pythons and other British comedians.  And while I claimed that Gilliam wouldn’t have been raised on The Goon Show and wouldn’t have found it to be an influence, Milligan’s work clearly was wider than that.

And there are many blog entries, as well as IMDB and Letterboxd comments, that point a direct line of succession between TRJ&SSF and Python.  I still feel that while Milligan was an influence, Lester’s take on the Beatles was more of an influence on The Monkees, which in turn affected all filmmaking, and that the visuals on TRJ&SSF — despite being dismissively compared to Python as both being from “wacky goofballs in a field” school of filmic composition by TVTropes — weren’t a particular influence. However, I am swayed by the end of this article which claims that the stream-of-consciousness narrative of TRJ&SSF, in addition to influencing Gilliam, would have been an influence on the way the Pythons shaped their episodes and had the disparate sketches merge one into the other over the course of an episode.

Whether TRJ&SSF is truly attributable to Milligan is a debate for experts beyond my ken.  In the podcast, I gave credit in the film to director Richard Lester, as I felt that the film was in the same vein as the work he’d done in both A Hard Day’s Night and The Knack… and How to Get It, films I had revisited just before recording due to availability in a mini-auteur package on the Criterion Channel.  However, this recounting of the filming process of TRJ&tc. very much makes it sound like both the brainchild and birth parent of the film is Peter Sellars.

Since the recording of the podcast, the short has sun-setted from the Criterion Channel, but a low-resolution version of the film is still available from those helpful scamps over at, as we like to call it at the end of each episode, the Archive.org community.  Where, as in the animated GIF in this blog entry, you will clearly see that while it may not have particularly influenced the Flying Circus, it was very much homaged in the visual staging of the “Political Peasant” sketch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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